What’s the best pizza? What’s the best sport? It’s different for each person, and the same applies to Table Mountain hiking routes. The mountain is so diverse in terms of views, vegetation and mood, each route has a character of its own. Fitness level, sense of adventure and ability to deal with heights (cliff edges) are the main considerations that dictate route choice. Some routes offer a jungle setting with inland views on the ascent; others sea views or city views. Table Mountain hikes can vroadly be divided into three categories:
- The first, represented by a single route, is Platteklip Gorge – the quickest and easiest route to the summit.
- The second, routes that involve scrambling and heights.
- The third, longer, more strenuous routes that involve minimal scrambling and heights.
Platteklip Gorge is the most popular and well-known route only because it’s the quickest and easiest hiking route to the summit, not by virtue of its views or diversity. If you’re unfit, time-strapped or indifferent about nature and mountains, then this is the route for you. Everyone else, consider type #2 or #3.
If you’re in average shape and you’re adventuorus and okay with heights (or if you’re not okay, prepared to push yourself mentally), then type #2 is the way to go. One of the best route options in this category is India Venster. If you’re averse to heights, don’t care much about adventure and in pretty good shape, then type #3 beckons. One of Table Mountain’s most iconic routes, Skeleton Gorge, falls in this category.
Hiking Table Mountain appeals to a wide range of people, all with different permutations of motivations for wanting to conquer this famous and dramtic landmark by foot. This also dictates route choice. More or less 60 hiking routes lead up Table Mountain, some very obscure and rarely done, offering much nature and solitude for those desiring communion with the mountain. Other routes are packed with adventure – scrambling and exposed traverses – ideal for thrill-seekers and those who like to challenge themselves. The three most popular Table Mountain hikes, not including Platteklip Gorge, the least scenic and exciting of the lot, are Kasteelspoort on the 12 Apostles, Skeleton Gorge and India Venster. These routes are popular because they offer the most scenery within the majority of hikers’ fitness and ability level. If you’re a veteran hiker in top condition and with a sense of adventure to match Indiana Jones, then these routes will give you great views, but little satisfaction and sense of achievement.
To optimize your Table Mountain hiking experience, route choice is crucial. The internet is flooded with information on routes like Platteklip Gorge and Skeelton Gorge, and it can all get a bit bewildering and confusing. The best way to cut through the clutter is by making use of a competent mountain-guide, who will assess your ability, experience, fitness and interests in order to determine the most suitable route for you.